Guys, I recently visited Pompeii! As the city is on a lot of people's bucket list, I compiled the most useful tips from my research as well as personal experience for a visit of the City of Ashes.
Take the train and walk.
Most likely you will go to Pompeii from Sorrento in the South or Naples in the North, so you can easily take the Circumvesuviana local train. The closest station to the ruins is Pompei Scavi - Villa Dei Misteri with a five minute walk to the main entrance. Pompei station is also just a twenty minute walk away plus you get to see modern Pompei on your way to the ruins (it's nice!). So there is really no need to pay extra for a shuttle.
Bring a small bag and water.
Most likely the staff won't allow massive backpacks, even though the strictness is supposed to vary a lot. However, you should definitely bring a small bag and a water bottle. The archeological park is big and there isn't much shade and as it can be very hot, drinking lots of water is essential. There are quite a few water stations in the park, so you can easily get a refill.
Protect yourself from the sun.
Besides water, also bring a hat and sunscreen. Most of the buildings don't have a roof and you won't find many trees either, so make sure to protect yourself accordingly. The stones save a lot of heat as well so be prepared for sweat galore if you go during the summer months. I actually went in March so the weather was perfect to stroll around the ruins.
Even though you can find cafes and shops just outside of the ruins you should still consider bringing some snacks. The park is quite big and you will most likely spend several hours, if not an entire day roaming the ruins. As this can be quite exhausting (particularly with high temperatures), bringing a bite or two can be life-saving. Just don't litter. Please.
Ignore the guides outside of the ruins.
Don't go on an actual tour with them and in fact - ignore everything else they say as well. The tours they offer have much bigger groups and they also kept telling me and my friend wrong directions. Not sure if they actually didn't know that there were other entrances as well or if they wanted to lure us in a different direction on purpose. Either way - you're better off without them.
In fact, don't take a tour at all.
Just after the entrance you can join an official guide for a tour as well. Although I've heard positive things about the tours, I am glad that we explored the ruins by ourselves. You get a very extensive guide for every section of the park at the entrance for free. It includes a lot of information about the different buildings and you also have the option to book an audio tour. As the site are so big I preferred to decide what I wanted to see by myself and at my own speed.
Do get a map.
The free map and guide from the entrance that I mentioned were great, so definitely take a look! It didn't just offer general information about the ancient city of Pompeii, but also an extensive description about every single building in the ruins, plus several tour suggestions. If you decide to do a DIY tour, this guide offers great inspiration!
Wear the right shoes.
The roads are very dusty and uneven so walking can be very exhausting. As you will spend several hours of moping around these ruins, you definitely want to wear the right shoes. Don't wear sandals unless you are planning on ending up with filthy hobbit feet afterwards.
Mind the penis.
Ancient Pompeiians didn't hold back with the penis punches - Ron Jeremy himself would have been proud. I did almost zero research before we headed to Pompeii, but come to think of it, obviously an ancient city of 20,000 inhabitants must have had a brothel. Or several. Thus, stone penises and images conveniently pointed into the direction of the nearest fun house (no kidding). Debauchery, sex and slaves. It makes for a fun game trying to scout the hidden penises of Pompeii. If you're unlucky, you can be sure to find a nice penis souvenir from one of the shops just outside, as the penis is also seen as a symbol of luck (cause, duh).
Don't expect to see everything.
You can definitely get a great impression of Pompeii within just a two hour tour. The complementary map has several suggestions for interesting tours of different lenghts, which you should use to maximize your stay. However, the archeological park is very big so if you want to see different (or all) parts of the ruins, you should definitely plan a longer visit. We actually ended up spending an entire day trekking the site.
Just a few stops away, you can visit Herculaneum. Even though I loved Pompeii and thought the ruins were quite impressive, Herculaneum is also worth a visit. It is much quieter and better preserved. You can even find many buildings with their upper story intact.
I'm so glad we made the hike South to Pompeii to see the ruins of this ancient city. I was very impressed how well-preserved the city is and how many details archeologists discovered over time. Can you believe this whole area was actually covered in ash?
Have you ever been to Pompeii? What was your experience? Do you have any additional tips I forgot to add to the list?
Kate recommends: A visit at Pompeii goes just fine with a book called - guess what - "Pompeii" by Robert Harris. The British novelist and journalist worked for the BBC and several newspapers. In his books he combines fiction with historical facts. Thus, "Pompeii" is a perfect opportunity to dive into one of the most famous natural disasters of all time while focusing on the characters of an engineer and a scientist. A truly original perspective on the Roman world.